CubaBrief: Long past time to stop giving the Castro regime the benefit of the doubt on sonic attacks and profiting off Cubans

The Castro regime has a long track record of being given the benefit of the doubt, and history has demonstrated time and time again that it does not merit it.

This is why I wrote a letter to the editor to The Washington Post that was published today highlighting the Cuban dictatorship’s history of harassing “American diplomats such as: killing their pets, trying to run them down or crash into their vehicle and switching out mouthwash with urine.” And demonstrated how the “Havana Syndrome” continues to be used against Cuban dissidents.

U.S. Embassy in Havana has been the target of health attacks harming diplomats.

U.S. Embassy in Havana has been the target of health attacks harming diplomats.

This also has larger policy implications with ramifications for both the United States and Cubans on the island. This should be approached through a bipartisan lens..

Havana is attempting to manipulate the upcoming election this Tuesday, and attempting to shape the debate over Cuba policy. The dictatorship is howling because sanctions have been applied against government enterprises directly linked to the Cuban military. The same military that represses Cubans, and thousands of which are actively propping up the Maduro regime in Venezuela.

Emilio Morales, president of the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group, in The New York Times on October 28, 2020 explained how the opening up of “remittances and large-scale travel” was done without doing the “due diligence on how the remittance business was channeled to the island and inadvertently put billions of dollars a year into the hands of the Cuban military leadership that in reality never ended up in the hands of its true owners, the people of Cuba.”

The threat by Havana to shut down Western Unions across Cuba, if the military does not continue receiving its cut from the remittances sent by the Cuban diaspora for their families in the island demonstrates that the dictatorship’s priority is not the well being of Cubans, but fattening the pockets of their military generals.

Beyond this narrow self interest the dictatorship has shown an active hostility to Cubans abroad directly helping Cubans on the island when they bypass the dictatorship. During the summer, Rosa María Payá Acevedo, together with CubaDecide, the Pan American Foundation for Democracy,and the City of Miami coordinated efforts for a humanitarian assistance drive to help Cubans on the island. Tons of food and urgently needed supplies were shipped to Cuba and arrived in August 2020. Three months have passed and the communist dictatorship continues to deny this aid to Cubans.

Over the past six decades too many have given the Castro regime the benefit of the doubt, and that has been and continues to be a mistake. It is time for the international community to distinguish between the dictatorship in Havana, and the millions of Cubans that are seeking to be the protagonists of their own lives in a free Cuba. These are incompatible visions, and friends of democracy should not be siding with generals and dictators.

The Washington Post, October 30, 2020

Letters to the Editor

Opinion

Cuba has a long history of using sonic weapons

The Oct. 26 editorial “Another invisible enemy” was correct when it called for the perpetrators of sonic attacks on Americans in Cuba to be identified, Americans protected and a proper response delivered, but too many are quick to believe the claims from Cuban officials that nothing happened and that they had no knowledge of what caused the injuries.

The Castro regime has a history, stretching back decades, of harassing American diplomats such as: killing their pets, trying to run them down or crash into their vehicle and switching out mouthwash with urine. 

Furthermore, on Oct. 18, dissident Cuban artist Tania Bruguera described and recorded a sonic attack that caused her a headache and ear ache that she found difficult to tolerate. Two former Cuban political prisoners, Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez and Luis Zuniga, described at a forum held on Capitol Hill in November 2017 how prison officials used high-pitched sound to cause them physiological harm in 1979. This history and the recent attack against Ms. Bruguera using the same kind of sonic weapon with similar symptoms that had been visited on U.S. diplomats should invite greater scrutiny of Havana.

John SuarezFalls Church

The writer is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/letters-to-the-editor/cuba-has-a-long-history-of-using-sonic-weapons/2020/10/29/ab3155d6-1946-11eb-8bda-814ca56e138b_story.html

The New York Times, October 28, 2020

Cuba Says U.S. Restrictions Will Force Western Union Offices to Close

A Western Union office in Havana on Wednesday. More than 400 are set to close.Credit...Yamil Lage/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A Western Union office in Havana on Wednesday. More than 400 are set to close.Credit…Yamil Lage/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Kirk Semple

The moves could severely restrict the flow of remittances from abroad and worsen a profound economic crisis on the island.

MEXICO CITY — In the face of widening American financial restrictions on Cuba, more than 400 Western Union offices on the island will close, Cuban authorities said, a move that could severely restrict the flow of remittances from abroad and worsen a profound economic crisis that has led to widespread food shortages on the island.

Fincimex, a Cuban military-controlled entity that serves as Western Union’s agent on the island, announced the planned closures on Tuesday after the Trump administration took steps to prohibit the transfer of money through firms associated with the country’s military.

Fincimex processes much of the remittance money, billions of dollars a year that make up a significant part of the Cuban economy.

Western Union said it was “exploring ways to comply with the new rules,” which take effect in late November, adding that services between the United States and Cuba would continue to operate for now.

Cuba’s Communist government could still designate other institutions with countrywide coverage, like banks, to channel remittances in compliance with the new rules, analysts said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the new restrictions were imposed because the Cuban military has taken a cut of the remittances and “uses those funds to oppress the Cuban people and to fund Cuba’s interference in Venezuela.”

Fincimex said the new regulations were politically motivated and would harm the Cuban people. “Doing so in the midst of a pandemic emphasizes cynicism, contempt for the Cuban people and the opportunism of the American government,” the firm said in a statement.

The restrictions were the latest effort by the Trump administration in its aggressive campaign to roll back the American détente with Cuba and the policy of engagement begun by President Barack Obama.

But the timing, coming days before the American presidential election, is no coincidence, analysts said.

The battleground state of Florida, home to a powerful Cuban-American voting bloc that has historically tilted conservative, was part of the Trump administration’s equation, they said.

“This is simply electoral year politics,” said Ted A. Henken,

associate professor of sociology at Baruch College in New York. “There is a strong likelihood that the Cuban vote can play a role in keeping Florida in the Republican column this year.”

Mr. Henken said this week’s moves could have a disastrous effect on Cuba’s population.

“If the Cuban government refuses to allow some other entity, like a bank, to do this, it could be a devastating blow to everyone who lives in part or in whole on remittances, which is probably 60 percent of the population,” he said. “This is putting a noose on the Cuban economy and accepting that it’s also around the necks of everyday Cubans.”

Emilio Morales, president of the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group, said the Trump administration’s restrictions have put the onus on the Cuban government at a time when it was already struggling to shore up an economy crippled by sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has brought tourism to a grinding halt and slowed remittances.

Billions of dollars in remittances were transferred to Cuba last year, Mr. Morales said, with much of the flow passing through entities controlled by the Cuban military and the rest reaching Cuba by other means such as relatives arriving by plane and people hired to carry in currency.

The arrangement has been lucrative for the Cuban military, Mr. Morales said, making it extremely reluctant to give up control. But the latest restrictions by the Trump administration, coinciding with such a severe economic downturn on the island, may leave the government with no option but to pry the remittances trade out of the generals’ hands.

“If the military does not give up the remittance business to other state institutions, they will run out of oxygen, it’s that simple,” Mr. Morales said.

“Obama tried to empower the Cuban people by opening remittances and large-scale travel,” Mr. Morales continued. “However, his administration unfortunately did not do the due diligence on how the remittance business was channeled to the island and inadvertently put billions of dollars a year into the hands of the Cuban military leadership that in reality never ended up in the hands of its true owners, the people of Cuba.”

Frances Robles contributed reporting.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/28/world/americas/cuba-western-union-remittances.html

Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter, October 29, 2020

Rosa María Payá on “Pan con Podcast” interviewed in depth by Chef Michael Beltrán, including the Castro regime’s blocking of humanitarian aid

Setting the record straight from the perspective of a new generation.

Back in June had an article published in Dade magazine on the revolutionary program being advanced today in the United States, and its dangerous history. Today, learned that the same magazine and its podcast, Pan con Podcast, conducted an extensive interview with Cuban pro-democracy activist Rosa María Payá Acevedo.

This is good timing because the Castro regime is pushing its victim narrative again, while hiding its brutal nature. They are complaining because the United States is cutting off currency flows to the Cuban military that is currently in Venezuela, playing a repressive role. In order to push back rather than end the military’s involvement in profiting off remittance transfers by Cubans to their families in the island. They are doubling down and shutting down all the Western Union’s across the country.

This should not be surprising when one considers that tons of humanitarian aid donated by the Cuban diaspora that arrived in Cuba in August 2020 has still not been released to the Cubans that desperately need this humanitarian assistance. Rosa María Payá Acevedo back in May 2020, together with the CubaDecide initiative, the Pan American Foundation for Democracy,and the City of Miami coordinated efforts for this drive to help Cubans on the island.

More than three months have passed and the communist dictatorship continues to deny this help to Cubans. Please listen to this full interview and share it with others.

https://cubanexilequarter.blogspot.com/2020/10/rosa-maria-paya-on-pan-con-podcast.html